Back in February, I fell head over heels with Madison Beer’s viral Vogue makeup routine. Before I got sucked into the frenzy like everyone else, I was pretty disinterested in makeup. It’s not like I had a personal vendetta against it or anything, but the achievable, natural, yet noticeable look demonstrated by Beer’s technique truly got me excited about makeup again.
So much so that I went straight to Michigan Avenue (in the pouring rain sans umbrella, might I add), to get my hands on two products that literally made my jaw drop when she used them: the Charlotte Tilbury contour wand and blush wand. Reviews called them pigmented yet natural, lightweight, and a one-stop shop to sculpted perfection. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t the only one who had the idea, and I was a bit tardy to the party—the cons of viral videos that reach me but also reach the rest of the population.
I busted through the doors at Sephora and slid on over to the Charlotte Tilbury stand to get my hands on the contour and blush wands, only to find that they were completely out of stock. I was a bit salty and very much soggy from the rain, but I said aloud, “No matter, I’ll check online.” And that’s when I realized that the two products I thought I needed to achieve the Madison Beer glow were completely out of stock. I signed up for restock lists, Charlotte Tilbury texts that I’m too lazy to turn off, and refreshed their website twice a day, waiting for the drop.
But in the wise words of our girl H. Duff, waiting for the restock was like waiting for rain in a drought: useless and disappointing. After months of (im)patience, I decided that it was time to settle for the next best thing. Nothing was going to stop me from Madison’s signature glow. And where do I go when I need equal parts moral support and solution? Ulta.
If I was going to try and find a dupe for the popular contour wand and cream blush, my one rule was that I wasn’t going to spend an arm and a leg doing it. After a quick search on TikTok, I found that a lot of users were wearing the Revolution Eye Bright Concealer as a contour wand so that seemed like a decent place to start. I couldn’t find any popular dupes for the Pinkgasm highlight stick so my plan was to wing it. At the Revolution kiosk, I found a concealer in a much-darker-than-my-skin-tone shade that had a similar applicator to the Charlotte Tilbury Contour Wand and, at a neighboring stand, settled on a cream blush with a doe-foot applicator that had pretty decent reviews online. And the best part? They were both under $10—my idea of a good time.
I can’t lie, I didn’t expect too much from either of these products. After all, they were just a replacement until I got the real deal. So imagine my surprise when I tried Madison Beer’s makeup routine for the first time with my dupes and actually loved it. It was a makeup look that I got compliments on (coming from someone who never gets compliments on makeup) and one that truly lasted me all day (note: at the time of first use, I was out of any sort of setting spray).
It took me two tries to get the Revolution Eye Bright Concealer right because it dries pretty quickly. But on my second attempt of working swiftly to put three dots under each cheekbone and buff it in with a beauty blender, I was hooked. It made me look snatched and stayed exactly where I wanted it for hours on end.
And, in the pattern of love at second sight, NYX Sweet Cheeks cream blush blew me away too. On my first attempt, I put on way too much. This stuff packs a punch. But after a quick swipe of a makeup wipe and some experience under my belt I can honestly say—it’s probably the most pigmented, long-wearing blush I’ve ever used. It’s also worth mentioning that, while the packaging may not be as pretty as its high-end counterpart, it allowed for a clean application and features a simple screw top that kept me (a person prone to mess-making) from making a mess.
The high-end options—worth the hype?
After two months of loving my makeshift Madison Beer makeup routine, my phone buzzed with a text. You guessed it—Charlotte Tilbury herself (er, her text service, if you will) alerting me of the long-awaited beauty wand restock. If I had gotten the same text two months prior, I would have yeeted to the website with record-breaking speed. But, for a moment, I paused. My makeup routine was complete. I was happy with my dupes. But as all classic grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side stories go, I bought both a $38 contour wand and the same-priced blush stick, mostly out of curiosity.
After they arrived to my apartment building and I unboxed them like a wannabe makeup influencer, I opened them with care. The packaging was beautiful. And after months and months of waiting, they were finally in my hands. I had absolutely nothing to do that day (not even a Zoom meeting to show off my face), but you already know—I did full glam solely so that I could try them out.
I prepped my face in the exact same way that I had for months. I washed my face, used toner, and went in with a vitamin C serum and a moisturizer. I prepped with a primer and then used my usual foundation. All was well in paradise, so I reached for my brand-spanking-new and long-awaited products.
Up first was the contour wand. I applied it the same way that Madison did: a stroke underneath each cheekbone and blended with a beauty sponge. This formula traveled a lot more than my drugstore dupe and was a lot sheerer. It had a dewy finish that left me glowing, which I appreciated. I looked warm but not contoured, if that makes sense.
Next up was the widely loved Pinkgasm blush stick that I had been wanting to try even before Madison Beer made it viral. The color was absolutely stunning on her, and watching her beat it from her cheeks to the tip of her nose was truly a magical experience that I watched an embarrassing number of times. This highlighter blush was exactly that. Highlighter + blush. Personally, I love blush but I prefer to keep my highlight on the high points on my cheekbones. This two-in-one product doesn’t necessarily let you achieve that, especially if you’re someone who likes to add blush to the apples of your cheeks (i.e. me). Besides that, I found that the initially gorgeous pigmentation didn’t last all day like the Nyx Sweet Cheeks formula did.
I definitely looked warmer and more done up after I used the Charlotte Tilbury options, but I can’t lie: I didn’t love them. Both products spread a lot during application, which left me less contoured than I would like, and the sheer, dewy nature of each product didn’t really stand the test of time. Not to mention that, over the course of having each for a few months, I’ve 1) forgotten to close them both at some point, which resulted in a huge mess in my makeup bag, and 2) watched helplessly as the sponge applicator slowly peeled away and ultimately departed from the contour wand’s original packaging.
The final verdict
After a few months of having both the high-end products and their dupes, I have to say that the dupes reign supreme this time around. The Charlotte Tilbury wands aren’t bad. The packaging is pretty, the formula is creamy and satisfying to put on, and they make you look super glowy, which I can appreciate. But for $38 a pop and for them to 1) look almost entirely the same as products that are almost a quarter of the price or 2) not last the entire day, I can’t say that I’ll be repurchasing.
I still will give credit where credit is due. If it weren’t for these higher-end, cream-based contour and blush products, I’d still be kicking it with powder products. The viral, more expensive products led me to my long-lost loves—their dupes. For that, I am forever grateful. I’ll definitely use them up until they’re gone, but when it comes to replacing, I’ll reach for the dupes time and time again until something better comes along—or at least until Madison Beer x Vogue releases an updated part two in the future.